Revolution or War n°21

(June 2022)

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ICT’s Statement on Our Theses on the Imperialist War in Ukraine

Dear comrades,

We have read your text (Theses on the War in Ukraine) and noted with pleasure that there has been a positive evolution of your positions, beginning with the necessity of the world party of revolution as an indispensable tool in the class confrontation for overcoming capitalism. This is certainly not the first time you have posed this question, but now it seems to us that there is an additional emphasis.

Correctly, then, you relate the escalation of imperialist tensions and the war in Ukraine, with the deepening of the crisis, which, precisely, pushes the various bourgeois factions to increase their aggression, according to the most "classic" logic of imperialism.

These are, no doubt, the positive aspects, but there are others in your "Theses" that leave us very perplexed, because they reflect, in our opinion, analytical methodologies that are both mechanistic and idealistic at the same time. Put in still other terms, a schematism emerges from the "Theses" that risks giving a misrepresentation of the current tendencies, making your document misleading for the purposes of a communist orientation of the proletariat, that is, today, of minorities and individualities – not necessarily proletarian – who place themselves on the terrain of anti-capitalism.

You assign a central role to Europe, both in the current imperialist clash – a prelude perhaps to future ones – and in the class struggle, that is, to the proletariat in that part of the world. No one denies the enormous importance of the European continent – it is almost a platitude – but to state categorically that the European scene is the main terrain on which the bloody game of imperialism is played is a gamble and puts the other scene of the imperialist clash, the Chinese one, in the background. You yourselves mention it, but do not emphasize enough its primary importance.

Similarly, for you, the European working class has a special place, so to speak, in the revival of the class struggle and in the fight against the war, because this segment of the world proletariat would have more historical (class) experience than any other proletariat. This, too, is a questionable schematization, for we know well how the last few decades have produced profound changes in the class composition and political "memory" of the "European" proletariat. It is not useless to recall that, in more recent years, some of the most significant episodes of workers’ (workers’ in the broadest sense: wage-earning) struggle have taken place outside Europe, and, therefore, aprioristically assigning the "primogeniture" of the class struggle to the European proletariat runs the risk of lapsing into idealism, of being crushed by the glorious revolutionary past of the working class of the old continent, of failing to take into proper consideration the anti-capitalist potential of other sections of the world proletariat. If you mean to say that especially in Europe there are communist nuclei that keep revolutionary praxis (theoretical-political method, etc.) alive, that is one thing, but their extreme numerical weakness means that they are, in fact, unknown to our class and, for the time being, without any real possibility of influencing the course of events. This does not mean, ça va sans dire [that’s goes without saying], that we must resign ourselves and wait "Bordiguistinaly" for better times, devoting ourselves in the meantime only to theoretical analysis, but that we must be clear about the extremely bumpy path in which – for as long as we can remember, by the way – we are moving; renunciatory fatalism as well as headlong rushes lead nowhere. Incidentally, it is no coincidence that recently our positions are gaining interest in areas that had never been touched – or had been touched to a marginal extent – by the theoretical-political activity of the "Italian" Communist Left, in which we have our roots, a reflection of a social, if not class ferment that is in some respects new. That it is the European proletariat that will play the role of first violin or at least give the "A" to the concert of the class struggle, is a possibility, without any doubt, perhaps the most probable, but not a certainty: to make a joke, “the spirit blows where it will”, Thomas Müntzer used to say, but we would add that for it to be productive in a revolutionary sense it needs an instrument that will pick it up and point it in the right direction. But such an instrument – the party, the new international – is all to be constructed and, as things stand, even if the proletarian ’spirit’ were to blow stronger in Europe, it would in fact find no one to direct it against the bastions of capital, neither here nor elsewhere, and the bourgeoisie, would succeed with greater or lesser difficulty, in remaining master of the situation.

Here is another point in your document that leaves us very doubtful and which gives off, if we must be honest, the unpleasant odor of fanciful theorizing à la ICC. In point 5, you state that the bourgeoisies of Western Europe have difficulty “to impose on the fraction of the international proletariat with the greatest experience of workers’ struggle against the crisis and also against the imperialist war, the degree of submission indispensable to march to war.” Unfortunately, it seems to us that this is not the case; on the contrary, we see that for about half a century our class has been suffering every attack coming from the bourgeoisie without responding or without responding adequately. The reasons are many, we know them – not the least of which is the loss of hope in an alternative world to that of capital, following the collapse of "Soviet" state capitalism passed off as "real socialism" – but the fact remains that, so far, the bourgeoisie is handling exploitation and oppression of the working class with relative ease. If we are then to give some credibility to the war bulletins, that’s the TV news, with which the "Western" mass media daily mangle so-called public opinion, bangs of the Ukrainian proletariat have rushed to the defense of the homeland. Whether this is true or not, it remains that, barring episodes unknown to us, there has been, at the moment, no mass opposition to the war, of the class as such, either in Ukraine or in Russia and, unfortunately, not even in the "West". In the face of the war in Ukraine, not only are the Russian and Ukrainian proletariat fighting for their respective bourgeoisies, but in old Europe, so far, when something has moved, it has been in a pacifist sense, i.e., "no to war" but yes to the peace of capital, without understanding that capital itself is the cause of wars. For that matter, so far, never in history has the labor movement been able to prevent the outbreak of an imperialist war (it has been able to stop it, though...), even if it is the only subject that can do so, once as now, but that does not mean that it cannot happen nor, much less, that the very weak communist forces should not work to that end: on the contrary! Without their active presence in the class, the class could certainly be set in motion, but having said that, we would remain stuck with one of the two factors of the revolutionary dialectic. We know very well that the class mobilizes even without the presence of the revolutionary organization – how many times in history this has happened! – we know very well that crisis, and even more so war, can give very powerful "kicks in the ass" [alternatively: jolts] to a numbed, disoriented and frightened class, which plays the role of ’class for capital’ almost without a word, but it is not automatic that this happens. Above all, it is not automatic, indeed!, for its most combative sectors to become "class for itself" i.e., to acquire revolutionary consciousness, if precisely they do not enter into dialectical relationship with the communist vanguard, which they politically nurture and by which they are politically nurtured. The problem is always that, but to solve it we must not be guided (only) by our hopes, for otherwise these may become illusions, nor by schematisms, which make us unfit for the role to which we aspire as vanguards of the international revolution.

Internationalist Greetings,

ICT, May 4th 2022 (translated by us)

Awaiting for a Response from Us

Due to lack of space, we will not be able to respond to the comrades’ letter in this issue. Their criticism concerns two points. The first is the insistence of the theses on the return of Europe to the forefront of the historical situation, both on the imperialist level and in the class struggle, which would make us forget-underestimate the reality of the fundamental Chinese-American antagonism. We do not believe that there is a real divergence between us here. In fact, the theses try to underline and warn the international proletariat of the historical significance of the war in Ukraine and in Europe. The fact that the first conflict marking an important step towards the generalized war does not oppose China and Taiwan, which was a probability, but Russia and Ukraine, makes Europe the epicenter of the situation for the moment and challenges in the first place the proletariat in Europe; a proletariat having like the others its own historical experience; experience which is certainly the richest of all the other fractions of the world proletariat to this day; experience which does not prejudge in any way its capacity to fight en masse in the period which is coming, knowing that for the moment it is largely absent – the ICT is right on this point. To display this does not mean that we exclude in advance any reversal of the international situation, making Asia the epicenter of the situation at another moment, or even a whole period, and the Pacific Ocean the main theater of the imperialist polarization and of the generalized war if it were to happen. Nor that the proletariat in China and Asia cannot take the initiative of an international revolutionary wave in the face of a war that would affect it directly, as the Russian proletariat did in 1917. If there is a divergence on this point, it lies rather in the fact of establishing the probability – and not the prediction – of the events to come according to the analysis of the present events and their dynamics, which are determined by the perspective of the generalized imperialist war and the class confrontations that the bourgeoisie cannot fail to impose. For the moment, because of the war in Europe and the historical experience of the proletariat of the continent – material and historical facts – we consider more probable a mass proletarian reaction to the war starting from Europe than from America, Asia or Africa. This probability is neither a prediction, nor does it exclude in an absolute way that it could be different, the situation remaining the same elsewhere – there are also, for example, material elements indicating a dynamic, of course still timid, of proletarian reactions to the crisis in North America. And there lies the second point of criticism of the ICT.

It expresses a real divergence. For the clarity of the reader and so that he can find his way around, we can roughly say that it touches on the contradictory debate that the PCInt-Battaglia Comunista and the ICC had developed at the end of the 1970s around the question of the historical course – the same one that the ICC of today abandoned at its 23rd Congress in 2020. For our part, and trying not to repeat the idealist and dogmatic failings with which the ICC could often understand and carry this question at the time – much of the criticism that Battaglia Comunista made at the time was correct – we take up the concept and, we hope, the method that must accompany it, the one that the comrades of the ICT have always judged and labeled as idealist. Beyond the historical debates between the PCInt and the ICC, the reader can also refer to the exchange between the ICT and ourselves that we published in 2019 in Revolution or War #11 [1] on this question. We will try to take up this debate in the next issue of the journal.

For the time being, we shall be content to salute the political effort and concern of the ICT on this occasion and to give it as an example. They can only help us to clarify, or even correct if necessary, our own approach and understanding. But above all, debating, confronting, specifying and clarifying the points of agreement and disagreement, on essential questions, here the method of analysis and understanding of the historical situation that defines – and will define – orientations and slogans according to the time and place, is an integral part of the process and the struggle for the constitution of the party of tomorrow. It is not only the program and the principled positions that the party will have to clarify and on which it will be constituted, but also the general orientations and the tactics that will result from them. To regroup is also to debate and confront positions around the main forces of the communist Left and around its programmatic and political corpus.

The IGCL, June 2022



[1. Notre position critique sur un article de la TCI et la réponse de celle-ci